Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Imagine an imaginary menagerie manager imagining managing an imaginary menagerie

One thing I realised when I got back to New Zealand is that we need a new pet. We already have a cat and a fish, and we used to have several more fish until the remaining fish ate them, but there is room here for a newcomer I think. Fish are good because you can ignore them. They don't need to be exercised, and if you forget to feed them for a while they pretty much sort themselves out, at least until they run out of smaller fish. The fish is called Leviathan and he's fine, we quite like him, he can stay. The only real problem with fish is that they aren't particularly fulfilling as pets because it's hard to tell what they're thinking and they don't really listen if you've got something you want to talk to them about. The cat is a different story, but I did not fly all the way around the world to write a blog about the cat. All I will say on that subject is if anybody wants a violently deranged and overly furry housecat who likes to drool on keyboards and destroy people's stuff, send me a stamped, self-addressed envelope and you can have her by return post.

I want an animal less homicidal than a cat, but more interesting and interested than a fish. It's a difficult balance to strike, because the pet must also not need exercising or training at all. A pig is a possibility; I have always been fond of pigs. My friend in Berlin has a pig called Kenny Powers, who is obviously a very fulfilling and faithful companion, but the impression I get is that he requires a lot of attention and training. That's fine if you've got the commitment and stickablility to maintain a good training regime, including walks in the park and jumping practice etc, but I fear that I lack that stickability. It would be a shame if my pig lost condition and became lazy due to my want of focus. A dog wouldn't work either, because you can't ignore dogs. If you ignore your dog for too long, pretty soon it will be running around the neighbourhood eating children, and that attracts journalists. I need a pet I can ignore sometimes, but one that will be there when I want a bit of a gossip.

So what I decided was this: It's turtle time! What this house needs is a tank with a serious turtle in it, the kind that you can feed meat to when you're bored, the kind with red dots on its ears and a leathery head that it retracts into its little shell when it's eaten too much meat and it has indigestion. Turtles make great pets because they are virtually self-sufficient: They don't need to be walked or burped, they don't crave attention, and you don't have to try to teach them things because you just can't: turtles don't do tricks. They just hang out, swim around, and look awesome. But: if you want to, you can talk to them, and they will be a lot more interested than a fish would be. That's because while fish have no knowledge of the world beyond the aquatic, turtles are amphibious, and therefore have a broader perspective on life. They hunger for knowledge, and in their little turtle brains lurk the rudiments of empathy. Once you have won its trust (with meat) your turtle can be a very sympathetic listener.

Another strong advantage a turtle has as a pet is that when we go away, lots of people will be happy to look after it. Nobody who's met her wants to look after our cat any more, because everybody knows that she's trouble. It's pretty hard to find a dog-sitter as well because of the regular exercise thing, and the problem with leaving your pig with someone is that pigs can easily be turned into a range of delicious meats and it can be hard to explain that your particular pig wasn't for eating. Turtles are no-fuss and pretty much all look the same, though, so nobody will have any qualms about turtle-sitting because a) it's easy, and b) if you still manage to make a horrible mistake and kill my turtle, you can replace it with a similar-looking one and I will never know.

I am strongly looking forward to this turtle, and I know that pretty soon people will start asking me what I'm going to call it. Well, I can reveal that I've thought quite a lot about this, and my first and well-considered choice was 'Led Zeppelin.' That would be a rad name for a turtle. Here's the thing though: you can have that name for your turtle if you want, because I'm not going to use it. I realised that I'm really looking forward to people meeting my turtle and going 'pretty cool turtle man, what's its name?' and me just saying 'The Turtle.' Because really, that's all the name it will need. It's not like it needs to get a driver's license or vote or anything, it's just a turtle. Using its powers,* The Turtle will know when it's being addressed or spoken of, so no fancier moniker is necessary in my view. When we talk of 'The Turtle' in this house, everybody will know who we mean.

So obviously nothing much exciting has happened this week, but sometimes it's good to be able to take a breather and sort out your life, particularly vis-a-vis turtles. Next time something interesting happens you will be the first to hear about it, and you can also expect more pictures of turtles here in the future. I'm thinking of subtitling this whole thing 'the blog that keeps on giving,' so feel free to let me know what you think about that.

Next week: In which I go to Whanganui, for rock'n'roll purposes. We'll see how that turns out.

*Yeah, The Turtle has powers. What of it?


  1. You can post Loulou to me. Our house could do with a drooling machine.

  2. I hear turtle soup is delicious, so you can do away with your pet if you ever feel the need. As long as it's not a mutant.

  3. You give away my cat, I'll give away your turtle!